Partners, principals, teachers, students and community members came together Wednesday to celebrate the success of the Middle Schools for a New Society (MSNS) initiative. The program, which is a partnership between the Hamilton County Department of Education and the Public Education Foundation (PEF) with support from the Lyndhurst Foundation and the NEA Foundation, has made a substantial impact in Hamilton County middle schools over the past six years.
“Our goal is to transform every middle school,” said Rick Smith, HCDE superintendent. “This means every school, every classroom and every student. That’s 20 schools, over 600 teachers and more than 9,000 students.”
MSNS is focused on three goals to change middle school culture: improve reading, math and the well being of students. The result is an environment where students are engaged, teachers learn collaboratively and instruction is rigorous for everyone.
“We want our middle schools to challenge, engage and support all students, from the most challenged to the highest performing,” said Ismahen Kangles, director of MSNS. “This is about a community coming together to impact middle school students not only so they are successful in high school, but also in life.”
In 2004, Hamilton County became one of the first NEA Foundation “Closing the Achievement Gap” sites. In partnership with PEF, Hamilton County Schools received a five year $500,000 annual grant to facilitate closing the achievement gap in five of Hamilton County’s most high-need middle schools. The objective was to gain additional funding to extend into all middle schools in Hamilton County. This hope was met in 2005-2006 with the generosity and confidence of the Lyndhurst Foundation and the NEA Foundation, which joined forces with Hamilton County Schools and PEF to provide resources that would help every middle school in Hamilton County.
“This has been a community partnership that has really made a difference,” said Dan Challener, president at PEF.
For the past six years each school has received grant funds based on strength of vision, the depth of their plan and the individual needs of the school. Throughout, schools have invested in people rather than things. Each school hired an instructional coach in order to ensure successful implementation and effective ongoing support. Today 20 principals, 20 schools and 20 instructional coaches work together to improve student achievement for middle school students in Hamilton County schools.
The celebration featured students from all 20 middle schools talking about the impact of the initiative, and with the help of coaches placed in all the Hamilton County middle schools a video was created to showcase the accomplishments of the initiative. The video can be viewed here: https://vimeo.com/42252637.
For more information about MSNS, visit pefchattanooga.org.